THE LANDSCAPE AS A KEY RESOURCE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT AND MANAGEMENT IN CHILE
(1) La Farfana environmental lagoon, landscape designed for birdlife as part of the Environmental Compensation Plan for the Environmental Impact Study of the La Farfana Sewage Treatment Plant, Maipú, Santiago, © Jadille A. Mussa for LOFscapes / (2) Landscape in the Ñuble sector, Santiago, modified by pipeline and Transandino gas pipeline © Jadille A. Mussa for LOFscapes
Our guest columnist this week, Jadille A. Mussa, discusses how the landscape has been managed in Chile from a normative perspective, based on the analysis of General Environment Law No. 19.300 of 1994 (updated as Law N° 20.417 of 2010).
Twenty-two years after landscape was legally recognized as a resource in Chile, mechanisms were defined for its evaluation. However, from my experience landscape is still not at the center of discussion nor is it a pillar of the environmental impact studies. In the framework of Chile’s active model of economic development, the transformation of the landscape has followed the same upward curve as sustained growth. In the majority of cases, development has been located in zones of high visual attractiveness, unlike what happens in other countries, such as Spain, where the landscape has become a resource capable of summoning all the other elements to constitute its own environmental cluster (1). In this way, the landscape combines and is managed from its territorial conditions, flora, fauna, air, climate, etc. which increase and improve the visual, environmental, and touristic characteristics in both metropolitan and rural areas (2).
(1) See Órgano PRESIDENCIA DE LA JUNTA DE GALICIA, Ley 7/2008, July 7, de Protección del Paisaje de Galicia (Law 7/2008 Protection of the Landscape of Galicia) 2016 <http://noticias.juridicas.com/base_datos/CCAA/ga-l7-2008.html>.
(2) See Observatori del Paisatge (2016) <http://www.catpaisatge.net/esp/index.php>.
President Michelle Bachelet’s annual speech of 2014 coincided with the fall of the price of gas, thus resulting in tourism becoming a central component for the country’s development (3). However, its aim was to develop tourism without specifically considering landscape, something difficult to imagine in a territory so characterized for its morphology and territorial diversity. According to the “Estudio de Tipificación de la Demanda Turística de Chile” (Study of Tourist Demand Classification in Chile) by the National Tourism Bureau (SERNATUR) for 2011 (4), a survey of 2,421 visitors was done to establish the “Attributes of Satisfaction in Chile.” The survey provided a range from 1 – Totally Unsatisfied to 10 – Totally Satisfied. The survey results showed that “the variety of landscape” obtained an average of 9.7 with no other attribute with a higher rating. Currently, the only real instrument to promote the characteristics of the landscape is Law Nº 19.300 (which today includes amendments introduced by Law No. 20.417 published in January 2010) that operates on the regulatory framework of baseline analysis to identify the grade of territorial change that a given project will cause (5). The basic idea is not to prevent projects of intervention or economic growth, but rather to enhance the landscape as a resource capable of orienting such interventions. For example, the landscape should be included as part of the Strategic Environmental Assessment for a macro zoning that could enhance the territorial variety, which our visitors highly appreciated.
(3) SERNATUR, Discurso de la Presidencia (Presidential Speech) 2014.
(4) Government of Chile, Estrategia Nacional de Turismo 2012–2020 (National Tourism Strategy) 2011 <http://portal.mma.gob.cl/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/1_Estrategia-Nacional-de-Turismo-2012-2020.pdf>.
(5) APRUEBA LEY SOBRE BASES GENERALES DEL MEDIO AMBIENTE (General Environmental Law Approved) June 1, 2016) <https://www.leychile.cl/Navegar?idNorma=30667&idParte=&idVersion=2016-06-01>.
In this way, various activities have been developed in pursuit of the country’s growth, intensifying the use of places with high potential around the concept of landscape tourism. Nevertheless, it is common to observe that tourism is seriously altered by the inadequate management of territory and vice versa. The close relationship that exists between conservation of the environment that receives tourists and the growth of tourism as an activity poses a question for the management of regional and local authorities and for private entrepreneurs linked to the sector: how can the development of tourism be reconciled with the expectations of economic progress for rural communities? I believe the best way is through the Environmental Impact Studies, which if well managed can be converted into effective partners for local development, supporting and improving, for example, the visual conditions of a place.
Today it is necessary to evaluate whether significant impacts exist on a territory as a product of specific projects. However, when a potential development site does not have memorable elements but has an environment that could be improved, businesses should support measures of mitigation, compensation, and restoration of the landscape consistent with the natural resources or heritage aspects of the place as the case may be.
According to the definition of the Landscape Evaluation Guide of the Service of Environmental Assessment (SEA) and given the complexity of Chile’s multidimensional condition, the landscape has been studied mainly through visual perception. In this way, elements, forms, textures and colors are identified both to establish the aesthetic value and to interpret and model the ecological functionality of a given habitat (6).
(6) See Gibson (1979) and Kaplan et al. (1998) quoted in (Bureau of Environmental Impact Assessment) Servicio de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental, Guía de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental:Valor Paisajístico en el SEIA (Guide of Environmental Impact: Landscape Value) 2013
In short, more than two decades after the creation of the General Environment Law or Law No. 19.300 of 1994 (7), this regulation persists as the only Chilean legal compendium that includes the landscape as a resource to be managed and therefore comparable to the air, flora, fauna, among other elements. The landscape is thus regulated and basically evaluated in accordance with letter e) of Article 11 of the law.
(7) Government of Chile, Servicio de Evaluación de Impacto Ambiental (Bureau of Environmental Impact Assessment) 2016 <http://sea.gob.cl/sea>.
This part of the Article refers to both the landscape and the tourism value of an area, which are elements requiring environmental protection. Consequently impacts that a project or an activity may generate on these elements must be evaluated within the SEA of the Ministry of the Environment. What letter e) of the law considers as impacts on the landscape are those changes that can be produced by a project regulated by Article 10 and that cause a “significant alteration, in terms of magnitude or duration on the scenic or touristic value of an area” in accordance with the provisions in Article 11.
In this regard, the following should be considered: first, a zone with landscape value is one which being visually perceptible, possesses natural attributes that give it a quality making it unique and representative. Second, the area is understood as the object of an evaluation if the project or activity, in any of its phases, generates or presents significant alterations to the landscape value. This evaluation considers the duration and magnitude in which the visibility of the zone with landscape value is obstructed and the duration or magnitude of the alterations to the attributes with landscape value.
From my experience, the aforementioned law is a good instrument for the management of the territory. However, for some companies its compliance becomes a mere procedure. Despite the above, I believe that it is a good instrument that could be perfected. This instrument should be applied not only in zones without Regulatory Plans, but also it should govern decision-making within cities, which is now under the discretion of the mayor in charge of the community, without comprehensive perspectives at the metropolitan level nor instances of citizen participation that position landscape as a mandatory resource. For this reason, landscape has been relegated to an inferior position, resulting in lower quality, loss of scale in neighborhoods with heritage value, exponential growth of buildings, etc.
Finally, it should be noted that without a change in the economic model it is difficult to project the issues related to conservation and maintenance of the landscape. In the Brundtland Report (8) in the eighties, Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway contrasted the position of economic development with that of environmental sustainability. In this view, it is not possible to manage a territory environmentally in favor of the landscape and the quality of the resources without an echoing perspective of the economy or a green economy. Brundtland proposed to analyze, criticize, and rethink the global economic policies, recognizing that social progress was produced with a probable irreparable cost in the face of environmental issues.
(8) World Economic Forum Wef, Our Common Future (Brundtlland Report (United Nations, 2013).
While we hope that these economic changes produce a lesser degree of pressure on the use of natural resources, both Law Nº 19.300 and the Ministry of the Environment can be used to manage their state. Given this Law, the Ministry is capable of proposing and building a new perspective around the possibilities of the landscape as a pillar resource for managing the country’s tourism and its economy.
Jadille A. Mussa Castellano is Landscape Ecologist at the Central University of Chile and holds a Master’s degree in Labor Policies and International Labor Relations from the same institution and the University of Bologna, Italy. He is currently Director of the School of Landscape Architecture of the Central University of Chile. His Master’s thesis was titled “Eco Economía y el Desarrollo Sostenible comoAporte a la Equidad Social, en especial, la Salud de la Población. Un Estudio Preliminar sobre los Componentes del Concepto de Desarrollo Sostenible y su Aplicación en Chile en Dos Casos de Regulaciones Medioambientales” (Eco Economy and Sustainable Development as a Support for Social Equity, especially the Health of the Population: A Preliminary Study of the Components of the Concept of Sustainable Development and its Application in Chile to Two Cases of Environmental Regulations) 2015.